It’s been a strange couple of weeks, hasn’t it? We’ve all had to adjust and switch up our routines for the greater good and it’s definitely taking us all time to adjust. Even though remote working has been gaining popularity in recent years, for a lot of us, the nature of this switch caught us completely off guard.
How should we be communicating with each other right now? How do we stay focused with everything else going around us? How do we prevent ourselves from eating everything in the cupboard whilst we work? All extremely valid questions.
The issue that we have with the sudden move to remote working is a fundamental lack of preparation – the systems and processes simply weren’t ready. And realistically, mass confinement is not “remote working” as it was intended. A huge benefit of remote work is the flexibility, however during the current crisis that’s not something we take advantage of. Also normally, many of us wouldn’t have to contend with homeschooling our children or dealing with the pressures of not being able to be in physical contact with friends and family.
Make no mistake- right now is not representative of your average working from experience. Therefore, staying productive is crucial. It’s easy to become side-tracked or distracted, so it’s important to focus on your work tasks. Why? Well when we’re efficient and successful it automatically gives you a sense of accomplishment- which in turn serves to drive you through the rest of your day. We all could use a mood boost in these uncertain times.
This being said, how can we stay successful and productive whilst working remotely? Well, let’s look to the experts. Software developers have famously been the most successful sector to adopt remote working on a large scale, permanent basis. So, how do they do it?
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How Do Devs Stay Productive Whilst Remote?
Software developers like to tap into what they call a “flow” or “deep work” state. This is a state of intense focus that allows them to zero in on a task and dedicate 100% attention to whatever they’re doing. Sounds interesting, right? Well this ability often works in tandem with the agile management method.
This method favours the time-efficient “daily stand up meetings” over traditional video conferences that often get off track and eat into otherwise productive time. Stand ups are short team briefings that happen at the start of each day, designed specifically to navigate obstacles and promote progress. You ask three simple questions to every member of the team:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you going to do today?
- Are there any blockers to success? How can we solve them?
This way, the entire team, and the management, knows what everyone is up to in an instant, and everyone can get back to their tasks with a clear understanding and vision for their day. It frees up your mind to focus on what you need to focus on, and truly get into that “deep work” state that’ll improve productivity.
Another technique that devs and other successful remote workers use is the Pomodoro Method. It sounds fancy, but really it’s just chunking your time. It takes it one step further than the questions that the agile stand up would ask. Think of it this way: the stand up outlines your aims for the day, the chunking is the practical approach to actually make it happen.
In the same way, as you wouldn’t say okay I’m going to study for eight hours straight with only one break, you shouldn’t approach your workday in the same way. Your brain can only focus intensely on a task for a limited amount of time, so working in almost a HIIT workout style of 20 minutes hard focus and a 10 minute break to look at your phone, stretch your legs, make a drink etc. and then you can reset and start again on the next section.
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How To Keep Your Focus
Both of these techniques require intense focus, so how do we maintain focus- even for 20 minutes, with kids running around, the TV blaring and your other half on their respective conference calls? I hear you. First of all, separate yourself from the noise if you can by going to another room. If not, I’d recommend some good headphones and a relaxing playlist of your choice (instrumentals are really helpful for focusing).
Secondly, turn off your notifications. I’m serious. If you’ve got all the pieces and information you need to get on with your chosen task, turn off your email notifications, mute your Slack notifications, stick your phone on do not disturb and crack on with your task. According to researchers at the University of California, Irvine, constant interruptions mean it takes roughly 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to the task in hand. That’s 23 minutes and 15 seconds wasted every time there’s a distraction, no matter how small. And this certainly adds up over time. So turn off your notifications, it’s only for the chunk of time you need to complete that section of your task.
This is where the daily angle of checking in with your team becomes truly beneficial. Messaging and calling them multiple times a day really reduces productivity and gives off a monitoring atmosphere. This is where Wundamail comes in.
Wundamail is designed to make the daily stand up as easy as possible. It automates a daily check-in, and sends it out via email, so everyone can see what’s going on at a glance. Everyone’s responses are collated into a single email, and sent out at the time of your choosing. Instant accountability and efficiency – with no interruptions. Team members know not only what they’re doing, but what the entire team are up to and can refer back to it, and management can keep track of the bigger picture without chasing everyone and interrupting their “deep work” states.
This action of following up on intentions and targets is something that is often overlooked when using video calls and conferencing. We all like to have a catch up with our colleagues, but from a productivity point of view, they often get off track and there’s no follow up to promote accountability. So plenty of teams love to use Zoom and Skype and Hangouts, but realistically it just doesn’t get anything done.
Utilising daily stand ups or even automating the stand up process by using team management software such as Wundamail not only saves time, it promotes accountability, transparency, and productivity. So you can stay on track without a barrage of notifications or phone calls. It’s a simple and efficient solution, and with everything else that’s going on in the world, it’s nice to have something simple that you and your team can rely on.
Science Writer for Diskette Ideas
Rebecca is a Behavioural Science Writer for Diskette Ideas. She is an expert on change mechanisms, and how software can drive human action and make life easier. Her research is published in reports such as the Figala Crisis Report 2020, and has been covered in media outlets such as Global Banking and Finance and Small Business UK. Her focus is on behavioural change with long-term implications for well-being, organizations, and management.